Ateneo Physics alumnus Anton Tanquintic wins second place in Nuclear Olympiad 2015

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Winners in the Nuclear University Olympiad 2015: Anton Tanquintic (2nd place, third from the left) and Alice Cunha da Silva (1st Place, 3rd from the right) during the Awarding Ceremony at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at Vienna, Austria last 17 September 2015. (Photo by Alice Cunha da Silva)

by Quirino Sugon Jr

Ateneo Physics alumnus Anton Philippe Tanquintic (BS PS-MSE 2015) won second place in the Nuclear Olympiad 2015 organized by the World Nuclear University, a worldwide network of 40 intergovernmental, academic, and industry institutions in 30 countries engaged the in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The awarding was held last 17 September 2015, 10:00-12:00 am, at the 7th floor of the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria.

Anton Tanquintic learned about the contest about a week before the 9 June 2015 deadline. Anton then was just finishing his two-month internship at the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) at Technohub. He wrote a one-paragraph essay and asked his sister, Antoinette, to make a 60-second video entitled, Nuclear Solutions for Today’s Needs. Last 19 Jun 2015, Anton was informed that their video was among the 10 shortlisted for the contest, which were posted by the World Nuclear University in You Tube. By 9 July 2015, WNU counted the number of You Tube likes of the videos and Anton’s video made it to the top 5. The finalists were then asked to submit a 5-page essay on the topic “Radioisotopes: how are they produced?” They presented their essay orally before a jury for 10 minutes last 17 September 2015 in the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria. The first prize went to Alice Cunha da Silva from Brazil. Her video was entitled, Nuclear Saves Lives.

Below is the winning video of Anton and Antoinette Tanquintic followed by an interview of Anton by Ateneo Physics News.

A. NUCLEAR SOLUTIONS FOR TODAY’S NEEDS

by Anton and Antoinette Tanquintic

Radiation applications. Despite negative stigma, the use of nuclear techniques is ubiquitous today. In Medicine Cobalt-60 sterilizes over half of medical supplies in modern hospitals. In industry, gamma rays are also used to detect defects in metal structures to avoid malfunctions. On a larger scale, radiation sources can be used to address global problems such as poverty and hunger. In food production, sterile insect technique operations have reduced the reproductive ability of pests, thus eradicating them from farmlands. Moreover, mutation breeding has improved harvests via radiation-induced hereditary changes in the plant’s DNA, whereby mutants with desirable traits are chosen and developed as new varieties. Going over into food storage, sufficient doses of radiation kill microorganisms and so radiation sources can extend the shelflife of food products by as much as a factor of two. Modern fridges around the world even use UV lights in vegetable compartments to keep the produce fresh as long as possible. The science of our times has shown use of radiation sources as safe and beneficial to mankind. Perhaps it’s time we got over our fear of the world “nuclear,” and gave radiation a rebranding.

B. INTERVIEW OF ANTON TANQUINTIC

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Anton Tanquintic (2nd from the right) together with four other finalists of Nuclear Olympiad 2015 at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by World Nuclear University, 17 September 2015)

1. How did you hear about the video contest? What motivated you to join?

I found out about the competition during my internship at the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) at Technohub. My internship was during the period of April-May, and I had a friend who worked there (who was also my contact in applying there in the first place) who showed me an e-mail of the poster promoting the competition. I learned about it only a week or so before the deadline of submissions for Round 1, meaning that a bunch of other competitors had 1-2 month leads ahead of me in promoting.

2. Did you make the video on your own? Who helped you? 

My entry to the contest was a 1-minute animated video showing the peaceful applications of nuclear technology in our lives. I present examples of nuclear tech being used in Industry (to detect defects in metal structures) and Medicine (where radiation sterilizes medical equipment) before diving into my primary focus: how nuclear technology does address global problems such as poverty and hunger. I decided to use poverty and hunger as they are real and growing issues that we deal with today. I was inspired by Youtube video channels such as Minute Physics, and comics like xkcd.com in coming up with my entry. For the record, it was my sister, Antoinette, who did all the animations and video editing. I just came up with the script and told her what to draw for each scene.

3. Can you describe the procedure how they chose your video as one of the finalists? How tough is the competition?

I have no direct knowledge of how they chose the final 10 videos. I did get an email though saying that mine was the highest-scoring video for Round 1.

4. During the finals, did you take exams or were you interviewed by a jury? 

There were no such exams or interviews. The final round was simply a 6-minute oral presentation based on the essays we submitted earlier. The essay was on the topic, “Radioisotopes: How are they produced?” while the oral presentation was set to be a 6-minute speech based on the essay. I prepared by reading up on various technologies and journal articles. Since the topic for the essay was the same for all finalists, I did my best to add in more personal or entertaining segments to the essay so that any of the readers (and judges) would appreciate and enjoy my writing. For the presentation, I bore in mind that a significant percentage of the audience would be high school students and laymen not familiar with nuclear technology, so I made sure to make it is organized and consistently simple from the ground up. It’s a certain style of mine to explain complex concepts in the simplest but most accurate way possible; I like to think of myself as an effective science communicator. Thus said, I trimmed down my essay to appropriately fit the oral presentation, and rehearsed my essay-speech in front of friends in my physics laboratory at the Ateneo de Manila University. They all helped me improve upon it into its final shape. I then asked a skilled friend to edit my presentation into something more aesthetically pleasing and digestible; she did a wonderful job, and it helped make the delivery of my presentation as amazing as it was.

5. Was this the first time you went to you Europe? What was your prize? What are the places you went to? What’s your favorite food there?

Yes, this was my first time in Europe. The prize was simply prestige since the competition is still in its early years. In total, I went through Vienna, Geneva, and parts of France. I can’t really say I have a favorite food there; I pretty much eat anything and enjoy food as long as it tastes good. I did enjoy the healthy food lifestyle in Geneva though – there were lots of cheeses!

6. What are your five-year plans?

I am surely considering Nuclear Physics as a topic for further studies (i.e. PhD). Currently, I’ve just returned to Manila from a tour of IAEA and CERN, so I’m doing my best to decide what the best plan of action for me is. I will either take a job to gain experience, or go for a PhD if I can find a good program and scholarship.

7. Can you describe to us your career path from high school? Who motivated you to choose physics?

I was always interested in how the world worked. Physics and Biology were my favorite science subjects back when I was in Pisay (Philippine Science High School): physics because of how it tried to answer the fundamental mystery of why/how things exist, and biology because of how it delved into the very mystery of life itself. By the end of high school, I was stuck choosing between both fields. In the end, I went for physics because I wanted the challenge it presented. I am also very thankful that Pisay has wonderful physics teachers who’ve helped foster my interest in the subject.

8. Do you have any parting words to our physics majors?

Study well and grab opportunities! A life in physics is no easy task, but the rewards are worth it.

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Anton Tanquintic at Mont Blanc, 3,842 m above sea level (26 September 2015)

Notes and References

  1. Linkedin profile of Anton Philippe Tanquintic
  2. Anton Tanquintic’s video: Nuclear Solutions for Today’s Needs (June 9, 2015).  
  3. GMA News: Teens’ video is lone Pinoy finalist in World Nuclear University Olympiad (June 30, 2015). 
  4. Rappler: Ateneo student makes it to World Nuclear University Olympiad (July 2, 2015)  Republished in Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI). 
  5. Rappler: Ateneo graduate wins second place at World Nuclear University Olympiad (Sep 20, 2015).  An excerpt of this was posted in AdMU website (Sep 20, 2015). 
  6. Philippine Star: 22-year old Filipino physicist triumphs in Vienna nuclear olympiad (Sep 30, 2015). 
  7. Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippines: Young Filipino Physicist triumphs in World Nuclear Olympiad in Vienna (Sep 30, 2015)
  8. World Nuclear University: Nuclear Olympiad Finalists
  9. World Nuclear University: About the Nuclear Olympiad 2015.
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About ateneophysicsnews
Physics News and Features from Ateneo de Manila University

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